The Hidden Serpent

This is mid-sized dungeoncrawl is a tribute to B1. It’s really a raid on the fortress home of two adventurers. The maps are a little more complex than a lair dungeon and there’s a decent number of tricks to keep players jumping.

Two NPC mercenaries live in a fortress they’ve made for themselves. They spend their time hiring out, raiding, and generally being jerks. You know, typical adventurer behavior. Recently a group of vagrants showed up in a nearby town claiming to have been enslaved by the dynamic duo. It seems Zeglin and Rogar have some real Neutral Evil stuff going on in their fortress of QUAZKYTON. The captain of the watch suggests the party go check it out … and there’s an elf in town who’s looking for a certain statue rumored to be in the area, in the case the party runs across it …

The backstory is short, which I prefer, comprising only about half a page. The two hooks provided are a bit longer, mostly because of a nice rumor table that the escaped slaves can fill the party in on. The slave hook is the more interesting, while the statue hook is the more rewarding. By using both the DM should be able to provide some good role-playing opportunities with both groups and the watch captain. The town isn’t really described at all however there are a couple of handouts for the players, including a map drawn by the slaves. This introductory section is short, easy to read, and relatively terse. There follows a one-page description of the wilderness portion of the adventure, really nothing more than a small area map, maybe 10×14 miles, a small wandering table with “Wolves” and “The Ogre” on it, and a set encounter with a group of bandits on their way to the fortress. I usually like a wandering table with a little more … gusto in it, however this time around the table is fine. The ogre encounter is a good one, and he maybe shows up in again in the fixed encounter. The wolves make sense because of the close proximity to town and the fortress. The fixed encounter, with bandits, should be a nice little role-playing exercise that could lead to fun things, wherein ‘fun’ is defined as ‘gleeful cackling by the DM.’ Hey, The Man has to get his jollies also!

The fortress consists of two parts. The Upper/ground level is a worked stone fortress that generally houses the pair of adventurers and their minions, with about 29 keyed locations. The core design of the maps is ok although no where near the scale of the original B1. Essentially there’s a core group of central common rooms with some corridors surrounding them, and a couple of ‘room suites’ at the end of the corridors. If a large fight develops while the party is near the central rooms complex then they are going to have a rough time of it as creatures start to show up from most sides … which is exactly how a dungeon/fortress like this should be. There are some guard-posts scattered around, and the wandering table consist of slaves, guards, and off-duty bandits (human and humanoid.) I don’t like really prefer to see humanoids in modules … although it kind of fits in this one. [Recall that the first solution to the Tomb of Horrors involved Orc minions of an evil-ish PC.] The humanoids here evoke that same kind of feeling. What is REALLY nice is that there is a table right up front of all the intelligent combatants on this level. If the alarm gets sounded and reinforcements show up then you have a great count right up front of how many people are going to be showing up. This sort of detail should be present in EVERY adventure that involves intelligent creatures. There are plenty of role-playing opportunities on this level; the players have a chance to bluff their way in and a decent number of creatures may not be immediately hostile. While there are no faction present, this element goes a long way to make up for that. A group of smart people, intent on looting the fortress while the duo and most of their forces are away, could make out like .. well, bandits! There are a decent number of tricks and traps also, some of which are clearly a homage to a few areas in B1. Statues, teleporters, bubbling cauldrons to play with, and more traditional traps are all sprinkled about in a decent density. I enjoy these elements since they reinforce a sense of mystery, exploration, and wonder as the party travels through. It’s not just sneaking and fighting, but exploration and experimentation also.

The second level is a small unworked cavern complex under the first level. The map is a straight forward affair, mostly linear with some branches to other rooms, with about 12 encounters. This section has some scary undead (Level Drain!), shriekers, stirge, and other cave-type monsters in it. There are a couple of things down here to play with, but the small size really limits what goes on down here. It almost feels like a ‘wilderness tack on.’ That may not be a bad thing, and it does tie in with the second hook. It could use a lot more ‘natural’ cave elements though, in my opinion.

This could be a nice little introductory dungeoncrawl. The village needs beefed up for real play, but then again almost all villages need that. The complex is small and has a lot of old school elements in it. There’s sure to be a pitched battle at some point, unless the party is very good indeed. There’s also a decent amount of loot, normal and magical, for a smart party to cart off.

This is available on DriveThru.

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